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Funding Available to Boost Export Opportunities
Nebraska Ag Connection - 10/08/2018

Small businesses wanting to increase the value of their current exports or start exporting products for the first time can now apply for financial assistance through the Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED).

DED has been awarded $500,000 from the U.S. Small Business Administration's State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) for 2018-2020 to help small businesses defray some of the costs of marketing activities associated with accessing international markets.

"Access to overseas markets is a critical part of our economy, and small businesses are our state's largest exporting sector," said Governor Pete Ricketts. "This invaluable resource from the Small Business Administration provides small businesses a resource to help them start exporting, or to increase the amount of products they export on an annual basis. I encourage Nebraska businesses to utilize the State Trade Expansion Program as we pursue our mission to grow Nebraska at home by enhancing opportunities for Nebraska's quality products abroad."

"Trade and export promotion is essential to Nebraska's vision of statewide economic growth," said Susan Rouch, DED STEP Grant Administrator. "Nebraska's participation in the STEP program has generated in excess of $60 million in actual exports by participating small businesses in the first six years of the grant. We are poised to continue the success of the STEP grant program, focusing 100% of the grant award to the benefit of our small businesses."

Financial assistance awards through the STEP grant can be used for a variety of activities, including:

- Domestic or international trade shows, international sales trips

Eligible small businesses may apply for up to $2,000 in grant funding to attend qualified export-focused trade shows in the U.S., or up to $5,000 in grant funding for activities outside the U.S. Eligible expenses for up to two direct employees from a single Nebraska business or facility may apply. Reimbursement for these activities is capped at $20,000 per company.

- Participation in U.S. Department of Commerce business matchmaking programs

Small businesses may be reimbursed for registration fees to participate in the Gold Key, International Partner Search, International Company Profile, Business Facilitation Services or other approved U.S. Department of Commerce programs. Preapproval by the U.S. Commercial Service in Omaha is required. For more information on USDOC programs contact Meredith Bond, USDOC, at meredith.bond@trade.gov.

- Translation services

Eligible businesses may apply for up to $5,000 to translate company profiles, catalogs, product literature, packaging, labels or manuals for international distribution. STEP will also provide up to $3,000 to eligible businesses for website translation and search engine optimization to accommodate international marketing needs.

- Third party product compliance testing

STEP will reimburse up to $3,000 toward the cost of third-party product compliance testing necessary to verify compliance with international standards, registration or certification required to enter a foreign country.

Various limits apply to each activity listed above. In addition, a 25% company match of the maximum reimbursement allowed is required to qualify for the program. Maximum reimbursement through the STEP grant program is $25,000 per company.

DED is also contracting with two agencies to provide the following market research opportunities:

- Intermediate market research reports

Reports available through the University of Nebraska at Omaha's (UNO) Nebraska Business Development Center will provide international market research to assess global demand, identify potential markets and investigate specific markets of interest to individual companies. Reports are limited to two per company. To learn more contact Josh Nichol-Caddy at jnicholcaddy@unomaha.edu.

- In-depth extensive research project

One in-depth research project is available to focus on market entry analysis addressing industry, company and product-specific international opportunities and challenges that exist in a client's country of interest through an International Business Consulting Project (a component of UNO's Executive Master of Business Administration Program). To learn more, contact Melanie Krings at mdkrings@unomaha.edu.

To learn more about the 2018 STEP Program contact Susan Rouch at susan.rouch@nebraska.gov or Lori Shaal at lori.shaal@nebraska.gov at the Nebraska Department of Economic Development; or go to https://opportunity.nebraska.gov/program/step-grant/.

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